Whether you are a brand new parent or a grandparent, you have likely already encountered someone spouting off the latest parenting theories.
Each generation seems to discover new parenting theories that supposedly make parenting easier and children better.
For those who have raised children, we know there are no shortcuts.
Each family is unique, but for those striving to raise children to grow and love the Lord, one has to sift through the latest theories and trends to be sure they line up with biblical beliefs and values.
Fortunately, there are Christian leaders, like Walker Moore, who have made it their life’s mission to help Jesus-following parents raise their children in godly homes.
As a renowned family expert, youth culture specialist, father, and grandfather, Walker Moore has first-hand knowledge about the difficulties of raising children in modern times.
And he doesn’t put the blame on the parents!
In his book, Rite of Passage Parenting: Four Essential Experiences to Equip Your Kids for Life, Moore dives deep into cultural differences between then and now regarding families.
He emphasizes how today’s culture has changed so drastically and so quickly from the agricultural era.
He believes this explains why the family dynamics have shifted, and parents and kids are lost.
Moore argues that today’s culture in America is confusing and unclear. Children are treated like children far past when they ought to be.
This explains the huge number of adults returning home after college (referred to as the Boomerang Generation).
It also explains the creation of “helicopter parents.”
With wisdom gained from life experiences, Moore offers four clear essentials to transition children successfully to adulthood.
Today, we are summarizing key points from Moore’s fantastic book, and we highly encourage you to purchase your own copy to glean as much insight from Moore as possible.
Not Like Other Parenting Books
Some tend to avoid parenting books because they believe they are too difficult to follow or set unrealistic examples of parenting.
Moore’s “Rite of Passage Parenting” is straight-forward and gives parents the freedom to choose what works best for their family.
For example, while Moore identifies four essential experiences children need to pass successfully from childhood to adulthood, he gives parents breathing room to choose what the experiences should look like.
As a parent himself, Moore shares examples of his successes and failures as a parent. However, I believe the reason this book is unlike other parenting books is Moore’s transparency.
He includes the story of his own son being arrested and his choices as a parent at that moment.
It’s quite refreshing to read a parenting book where the author admits there are no perfect parents.
Moore writes, “Rite of Passage Parenting is not about being a perfect parent. If it were, I wouldn’t qualify […] My wife and sons would be the first to tell you that I am far from the perfect parent. One of the great things about Rite of Passage Parenting is that you only have to institute its principles 51 percent of the time (231).”
If you follow the principles more often than not, you are doing a good job.
Also, most parenting books offer quick fixes or focus on raising well-behaved children or emotionally healthy children.
Moore helps parents raise kids who grow up to be “capable, responsible, self-reliant adults who are equipped for life (231).”
The Rite of Passage
According to Moore, the first essential experience today’s children miss is a rite of passage experience (hence the title of the book).
Moore writes, “Cultural shifts have led to the loss of a rite of passage – a clearly defined line that distinguishes childhood from adulthood (3).”
Not only are today’s children missing the rite of passage experience, they are also sent mixed messages regarding when they should be treated like adults.
The driving age is different from the drinking age, which is different from the voting age, which is different from the age when you can rent a car.
No wonder parents and children are confused!
Moore argues the shift from the farms to the suburbs is part of the issue.
Today’s children are given fewer tasks and responsibilities.
Plus, without a clear defining line between childhood and adulthood, today’s children don’t know when to accept adult responsibilities or adult consequences.
The first way to address this issue to provide children with a rite of passage experience, such as bar mitzvahs in Jewish culture.
As Moore explains, “Since our culture doesn’t give them a way to accomplish that [growing up] by providing a rite of passage, they create their own ways to reach adulthood (34),” such as drinking alcohol to prove they’re adults.
Instead, American parents should prepare their children for a rite of passage event.
“The rite of passage event is the dividing line that changes the trajectory of the child’s life, shooting it along a new course and causing it to gain even more momentum toward capable, responsible, self-reliant adulthood (53).”
Moore provides examples of rite of passage events, such as organizing a project for a homeless shelter, but he says the event is up to the family.
Ultimately, the child should handle all the details going beyond simply participating and without parental control.
He suggests the event take place between 13-15 years of age.
How will parents know when the time is right? By using the five marks of maturity outlined in 1 Timothy 4:12.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).”
Moore writes, “Unlike past generations, where kids performed real work that mattered, today’s kids have no true significant tasks – special assignments that demonstrate their worth to people who are important to them (73).”
Going a little beyond chores, Moore suggests today’s children need significant tasks that add value to their family and would cause their family to suffer if these tasks were not performed, such as milking the cows during the agricultural era.
But, again, Moore argues this is a cultural shift.
“In the 1950s, parents welcomed the idea that their kids had easier lives than they did as children. And for the first time, a generation grew up whining about boredom (77).”
Everyone is born with the desire to be significant.
Parents need to provide children with significant tasks, or they will create their own sense of false purpose.
“We may continue telling ourselves that our pseudo-significant tasks are real and important – but like false fronts, they will eventually fail. God has built the desire for meaning into our lives, and we cannot live with the knowledge that the things we do lack value and purpose (81).”
Unfortunately, the cultural shift has led to kids believing they can’t do anything and parents thinking their job is to entertain their kids and make them happy “instead of providing them with meaningful work (85).”
It has led kids to find their significance in technology and social media, such as finding significance based on the number of “likes” they receive.
Moore argues, “The loss of significant tasks has left kids lacing in knowledge and skills for responsible living, and our culture prevents even kids who have these skills from performing significant tasks (92).”
However, when parents provide their children with significant tasks, they move them toward adulthood giving themselves more freedom by gradually handing over increased responsibilities.
Moore recommends parents slowly introduce their children to simple tasks that, over time, build to adult tasks.
Parents should model how to complete these tasks first.
By modeling and instructing children first, the kids feel prepared to complete tasks on their own (such as doing their own laundry or paying bills).
Moore claims, “The shifting culture has removed logical consequences – predictable outcomes of an action – from our kids’ lives (127).”
Today’s culture focuses more on building self-esteem and rewards for small actions without much focus on logical consequences.
Since children will grow up to be adults who must suffer logical consequences, it is critical for parents to teach them in the home.
Moore uses an example many parents can relate to – science fair project procrastination.
We all know a child who waited until the night before to do a big project only to have mom and dad finish the project for them instead of allowing their child to face logical consequences. Moor argues how poor this messaging is.
The reason our culture struggles with logical consequences is we struggle to identify our core values and beliefs.
“Kids today often make poor choices because our culture has failed to designate their values and beliefs as either right or wrong (141).”
This is why Christian families rely solely on Scripture as it is “the only reliable source of universally right values and right beliefs (146).”
Parents must work to teach their children how to make wise choices based on logical consequences.
One suggestion is to use written consequence contracts with your kids. For example, list the logical consequences should kids not clean their bedrooms.
It is also in this section of the book that Moore describes deciding to allow his son to suffer the logical consequences for drinking and driving by going to jail.
As Caleb Moore (Walker’s son) writes, “Real love doesn’t always bail the other person out. Sometimes real love steps aside so that the loved one may experience the full effect of his actions (179).”
Moore argues, “The cultural shift has left our children’s lives lacking in ‘grace deposits’ – statements or actions that communicate an individual’s intrinsic worth in a way that he or she finds meaningful (185).”
In parenting, both law and grace are needed with a tad more grace.
Grace often comes from other special people in children’s lives, such as their grandparents. Since parents enforce the rules at home, grandparents are often the ones who pour grace into the child.
As Moore explains, “A child who receives enough grace deposits is able to balance the law under which she lives with plenty of positive messages that communicate her true worth and value (195).”
Unfortunately, grandparents no longer take on the role they once did, and kids end up with grace deficits.
If they lack in the grace department, they will use artificial means to fill their worth.
If parents are balancing grace and law, their children will find grace substitutes – typically not healthy ones.
Moore suggests, “We need to build true identity into our kids’ lives through our own words and actions and through a specifically chosen grace team (214).”
These are the people who make a positive difference in your child’s life.
Moore concludes, “You’ll never regret forming a grace team for your child, and you’ll never regret the building up of his or her spiritual account through grace deposits” (224).
Additional Resources for Rite of Passage Parenting
Again, we encourage you to read Rite of Passage Parenting: Four Essential Experiences to Equip Your Kids for Life by Walker Moore.
In addition, you can find Walker Moore’s regular Rite of Passage column on The Baptist Messenger here.
You can also listen to Walker Moore on this D6 podcast featuring a discussion on Rites of Passage Parenting.